Book Review: #MurderTrending (Gretchen McNeil)


Arwen Wen, Staff Member


Welcome to the near future, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0. Where convicted inmates live “normal lives”– until the Postman sends his Painiacs after you. 

17-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit.

Released in August 2018, #MurderTrending is one of my favorite books, and I have a lot of those to choose from. It was a fast-paced read that I immediately clicked with, despite some critiques. The theme is definitely gruesome, but in spite of several gratuitous grisly deaths, the overall feeling is more subdued than one expects. Context: the President of the United States is a former reality TV star who thought it would be a really great idea to outsource the justice and penal systems, and turn it in to a psychopath television producer known only by his internet handle, “The Postman.” Set on the reconstructed area of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California, convicted killers are sent to “Alcatraz 2.0” for their execution, where every square inch and corner is surveilled by cameras mounted on robotic birds. This live footage is streamed 24/7 to millions of viewers around the world tuning in to see the prisoners executed in the most brutal ways by federally sanctioned killers with names like ‘Gucci Hangman’ and ‘Molly Mauler,’ who try to drive up their popularity on the social media platform. Everyone is addicted to watching the gore; it’s reality TV on a whole other level. 

The plot follows Dee Guerrera, a teenager who was sent to Alcatraz 2.0 after being wrongfully convicted of murdering her stepsister. When she wakes as the next victim of popular Prince Slycer, one of the island’s executioners (who dresses up his executionees as princesses from Disney movies), Dee earns the nickname “#CinderellaSurvivor” when she manages to escape his clutches. Determined to clear her own name and find her stepsister’s true killer, Dee teams up with other convicts on the island in order to expose the reality of Alcatraz 2.0 and bring down The Postman. Essentially a cross between The Hunger Games and The Purge, though not as hyped as either. There are two sequels, #MurderFunding and #NoEscape (though technically #NoEscape is a prequel).

Honestly, the backstory was weak and far-fetched. There was inconsistencies in plot, as well as plot holes that made for less story foundation and more just action. The foundation to the overall arc of the story fell short of expectation and could’ve had more detail. I can’t comment more about that without ruining the plot for you, so after you read #MurderTrending, feel free to discuss or talk with me. Given how prevalent social media is for most people these days, I can definitely see the scenario happening. That’s actually a scary thought. I just think that #MurderTrending was too… childish. It’s a word for the book. Sure, there’s murder and gory death, but Gretchen McNeil’s style in writing this book made it seem more cheesy than thriller. Because it’s YA, it was quick and easy to get through, but didn’t skimp on the gore or reveals. I also loved the ending of the book – it did a great job wrapping up this story so the reader doesn’t feel like they got ripped off.

Would recommend, though I give this about 3.5 stars for the issues in backstory and plot. The concept I love, but there could have been more detail and complexity to the execution (ha, pun).